My Personal Experience of Bullying in the Workplace
I think that we all, to a greater or lesser extent, share the opinion that, at least in some sectors, the culture of labor exploitation continues to be the protagonist. In such an environment, a bad worker isn’t only the one who performs poorly, but also the one who doesn’t laugh with the boss. Or, the one who protests for being paid less than a colleague who does the same job. Or, more simply, the one who doesn’t conform.
However, people tend to subscribe to the phenomenon of the self-fulfilling prophecy. This translates into the fact that when someone thinks they’re a bad worker, others usually provide the means to support this hypothesis.
For example, if they have the option of doing so, they’ll give their colleague more complicated tasks to do. Or, they won’t help them when they need it. They’ll also tell their other colleagues not to do so. “Why bother?” they’ll say “It’s better that they leave as soon as possible”.
Today, I want to share my experience of bullying in the workplace. It might be useful for someone who’s facing this kind of situation at the moment.
The schoolyard hierarchies that result in bullying in the workplace
Over time, I’ve realized that aggression always follows really similar patterns, even though the scenario might change. For example, just like in class, there was that guy who knew how to make you angry without the teacher noticing, it’s similar at work, except that the techniques are a little more sophisticated.
In my case, it was a colleague. When I joined, we were at the same level, but he was already convinced that he wanted to inherit the company. At first, he welcomed me, protected me, and taught me, and my entry into the company was welcoming and positive. However, almost immediately, I saw the warning signs. He asked me to do certain tasks as he wanted and not as the boss said. He also criticized everyone who wasn’t in our particular group. Or, he did me favors that he later wouldn’t let me forget, etc.
Over time, I began to notice that the others avoided interacting with my colleague. The same didn’t happen with newcomers, because he was always the first to show up and welcome them.
One day, I traveled on the train with one of these ‘outsiders’. After a few tense moments that didn’t really make sense, he seemed to realize that I wasn’t a bad person. That’s when I started to retaliate, but at the same time, I also opened the door to bullying.
My suspicions were confirmed
After a while, my new friend warned me that my colleague was dangerous. He explained that his ‘gang’ was created with people who he protected, but who he forced to do him favors. He told me they did parts of his job, stayed up late with him to finish his work, that sort of thing. He also said that he harassed all those who didn’t play along until they ended up leaving.
However, by then, I was already suspicious. It was particularly striking how my colleague had taken it upon himself to demonize all those who didn’t eat with us in the cafeteria. Moreover, how I, without knowing it, had often gotten him out of trouble by sacrificing my own time and effort. The bosses didn’t show him sympathy, but they let him run free because he always performed well. The problem was that he did it at the expense of the rest of us.
My new friend also told me about some rather shady deals involving my colleague. It seems that once he was caught on the office security cameras stealing money from another co-worker. He faked a power blackout and from then on, the cameras stopped working.
Another day, he deleted an essential project file from someone else’s computer. Then, he was seen scratching someone’s car. However, the real problem came just when I was planning my escape. He arrived and announced that a new era was beginning as he’d just been promoted.
When fighting is worse than running
It was bad luck that my small gestures of rejection toward him coincided with his promotion. I excused myself and explained I could no longer do his job for him. I began to interact with the rest of my colleagues and to do my job by the usual methods. Obviously, he was aware of it, so he started a campaign of bullying against me.
Suddenly, overnight, I became the bad worker, the worst one of the lot. I began to fail. In fact, he made me so nervous with his constant criticism that my failures multiplied, although I knew perfectly well that I was capable of doing my job.
All of a sudden, essential emails weren’t reaching me, orders changed by the second, and there were rumors and derogatory comments about me flying around. But he just later passed them off with a “Just kidding, man, how sensitive you are!” Moreover, every time the supervisor asked who’d done something, he’d point the finger at me.
My pens and the cookies I kept in my locker disappeared. My full name appeared in all the emails I sent to complain that something was wrong. The rest of my colleagues were only ever mentioned by their first names.
I tried to fight. He knew I wasn’t a bad worker, and damn it, everyone there knew who the bad guy really was. So, I went to human resources and filed a complaint. Do you know what happened? An e-mail was sent to everyone, asking us all to be nice to everyone else. In effect, they merely sent him a subtle hint.
I had to leave
I was already at the point of no return. My whole life revolved around him. I was anxious at night over going to work, anxious at work about having to deal with him, and anxious whenever I went anywhere due to sheer exhaustion. I talked about him all the time: with my colleagues, my wife, my friends, my parents… Even when he wasn’t around, he was the center of my life. Many people got tired of listening to me and turned away.
The final outcome was both good and bad. The good news is that I ended up retaliating and left work, so I managed to become myself again. But the bad news is that I left without reporting him, just as many others had done, out of sheer exhaustion. I didn’t have the strength for one more passive-aggressive comment or unfounded rant, and to continue feeling worthless. So, I got the hell out of there.
However, today, I understand that I really lost the battle. Because fighting against bullying doesn’t so much involve giving schoolyard bullies what they deserve, but empowering those who are being bullied. He perpetuated it, the others watched, and I suffered. And others will suffer after me because none of us did anything.
The only thing left for me to do now is to commit myself to the fact that, in the future, I won’t ever be an indifferent spectator. Above all, to have faith that there’ll always be those who have the courage to put an end to the reigns of terror that certain work environments have become today. Undoubtedly, bullying in the workplace has to stop.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Carrera, J. A. B., & Burneo, J. A. B. (2021). Responsabilidad del empleador por mobbing horizontal. FORO, Revista de Derecho, (35), 47-64.
- Padial Ortiz, O., & Iglesia Mari, M. D. L. (2002). El mobbing como enfermedad del trabajo.
- Torres, A. M. M. (2019). Acoso laboral (mobbing): Riesgo psicosocial emergente invisible. Revista Interamericana de Psicología Ocupacional, 38(2), 127-137.